Ovechkin visits Vancouver as Capitals play Canucks
Friday, 12.18.2009 / 7:00 PMCAPITALS (21-7-6) at CANUCKS (19-15-0)
Last 10 --
Washington 8-2-0; Vancouver 6-4-0
Season series --
This is the only meeting of the teams this year. The Capitals beat the Canucks, 5-1, in Washington last season. The Canucks won the previous two annual matchups.
Big story --
It's almost the Ghost of Christmas Past meets the Ghost of Christmas Present: Former Canucks' first-line center Brendan Morrison vs. current first-line center Henrik Sedin
, the second-leading scorer in the NHL. Morrison played eight seasons in Vancouver, centering Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi, before signing with the Anaheim Ducks last year. He had two shots and was stopped in the shootout of Vancouver's 7-6 win on Oct. 31, 2008, in his first game back in Vancouver. Morrison is having a strong season as Washington's second-line center. He's the Capitals' sixth-leading scorer with nine goals and 24 points and is plus-13, third on the team.
is fifth in the NHL with 28 assists and second with 43 points and he's plus-10. He has three power-play goals and three game winners and has an out-of-this world 22.4 shooting percentage, third in the NHL. Washington's Tomas Fleischmann leads the NHL with 26.5 percent shooting success. Henrik Sedin
has career highs of 22 goals and 82 points, set in 2008-09, but he's on pace for 36 goals and 103 points this year.
Both Morrison and Sedin have 50.9 percent faceoff success this season.
Alexander Ovechkin is bidding to become the first player to win the Hart Trophy three consecutive seasons since Wayne Gretzky won eight in a row from 1980-87. Ovechkin ranks sixth in NHL scoring with 38 points but is tied for second, with Sidney Crosby, with 21 goals, two behind leader Marian Gaborik. Ovechkin, however, has missed eight games this season, six to a Nov. 1 shoulder strain, and a two-game suspension earlier this month. He has the highest points-per-game average of the top 10 scorers, 1.46.
The Canucks find themselves on the outside of the Stanley Cup Playoff picture looking in at this time of year for the fifth-straight season. The Canucks are in 10th place in the Western Conference standings and must take advantage of the current eight-game homestand to make a move. This is the fifth-straight game at home and they are 3-1 on the homestand, including a 3-2 loss Wednesday to Anaheim. After a four-game road trip, the Canucks will play the next nine of 12 January games at home. The Canucks are the second-best home team in the conference.
Who's hot --
Ovechkin has six points in the last three games as does center Nicklas Backstrom
. Right wing Alexander Semin
has 11 points in the past seven games. Left wing Tomas Fleischmann has four points in the past three games. Goalie Jose Theodore has a 2.19 goals-against average and .927 save percentage while going 4-1-0 in his past five games.
has 15 points in eight games. Daniel Sedin
has nine points in five games. Center Ryan Kesler
has three goals in the last five games. Left wing Mason Raymond
has three goals and two assists in the past four games. Goalie Roberto Luongo
is 4-2 with a 2.02 GAA and .936 save percentage in his last six games.
Injury report --
Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler
injured his right shoulder Dec. 8. He's been skating but his return date is indefinite. Forward Michael Grabner has been out since early November with a broken ankle and is due back later this month. Center Pavol Demitra had shoulder surgery in September and is out indefinitely.
Capitals defenseman Mike Green
suffered a cut above his left eye when he was hit from behind and driven head-first into the boards Tuesday against Colorado. Defenseman Shaone Morrisonn took an elbow to the head from the same opponent and will be a game-day decision. Defenseman Brian Pothier has missed the past three games with a rib injury. Goalie Semyon Varlamov has missed the past four games with a lower-body injury. Center Boyd Gordon's back problems have limited him to part of one game since Oct. 12. Left wing Quintin Laing has missed 13 games with a broken jaw.
Stat pack --
Luongo, who played five seasons for the Capitals' Southeast Division rivals, the Florida Panthers, is 15-10-3 in 30 games against Washington, with a 2.26 GAA, .930 save percentage and two shutouts.
Puck drop --
Since Jason Botchford of the Vancouver Province wrote on Dec. 10, "why was Henrik Sedin
fourth in the NHL in points Wednesday, but 75th among forwards in average time on ice," Sedin has moved up to second in scoring and 59th with an average of 19:12 minutes per game.